Light

So I didn’t quite make all my Advent Photo of the Day photos into blog posts and the truth is that the later we got in Advent the harder it was. Cause, you know, I’m busy…

Anyway, my last photo on Christmas Day was “light” and here it is.

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“A Star, A Star, Dancing in the Night”

It is, of course, a Chinese Checkers board, in the middle of the game (which was actually the end of the game because we realized that it was 10pm on Christmas day and 4 children under the age of 8 needed to go to bed, along with their parents…)

Anyway, here’s what happened.

Christmas Day is a wonderful day, but for me, it is a day of celebrating a secular holiday. Christmas Eve is about Jesus, Christmas Day- presents, food, and family. There is nothing wrong with this, secular customs are important too.

I have not lived near extended family in over 10 years. Occasionally some family members come to visit for the holiday but mostly it is my family of 4. This has great benefits as we get to do things “our way” aka, however we want. This year we got up, opened presents, ate, the kids played, my husband read, and I went back to bed! In early afternoon the kids were still playing I got up and my husband took a nap. It was marvelous!

However, it was coming close to time to cook Christmas Dinner. No surprise, but I LOVE cooking big meals! But it feels empty to cook a big meal for the four of us. The Christmas meal is a holiday meal to be covered in chaos and fun and laughter. My small family has spent many a holiday meal with just the four of us, and every year it is hard for me.

So my husband and I decided we would not cook the meal, which made things even worse.

Then, I was texting with my friend Bob and as we were exchanging “Merry Christmas” greetings and other pleasantries he asked what I was doing and I explained about the meal. Then as a joke, I asked what time we should be over for dinner (joking like this is not unusual for us). They had already eaten their family meal, with a lot of extended family of course, but after a few exchanges an invitation came to come over to their house.

I called. They had to be exhausted, they had a lot of family around all day and I was not convinced that this is actually what they wanted to do, but an invite out of pity. I was joking I explained, but no, they are my family and insisted, and of course, I wanted to go.

We brought our side dishes, they reheated some ham, and we drove the 1.25 miles to their house. I was in my pajamas (as I refuse to leave them on Christmas Day) and so was my son. My husband and daughter needed to look presentable (yes, read exactly what you need to into the personalities from that statement). We talked, we ate, we had a dance competition, and we played Chinese Checkers. I was so happy I almost cried in joy. (several of our children did cry from exhaustion…)

But back to the picture.

The board itself if a star, and it could not be a better representation for the light that shone in the darkness for me that day. I had a wonderful morning with my family, a relaxing afternoon, and a party with my “extended family” in the evening. It was the best Christmas of my life. Bob, Dawn, Reese, Carter, Will, Maggie, and Gus. Thank you. I love you.

I am grateful, I am overwhelmed, I am elated, I am blessed.

Prophet

This is a very stressful time of year for most of us. For a pastor, in addition to presents, wrapping, baking, holiday parties, family, etc. we also have bulletins, sermons, and pastoral crises. It’s okay, it’s part of our vocation. But it’s stressful.

I have been continuously sick for about two months now. Allergies, turned into sinus infection, then my daughter passed on her strep bacteria, and then a cold. I am not complaining, I annoyed. My family has been passing around germs and they have been passing them to me. At one of the busiest times of year, I have been running to schools to pick up kids, running to doctors, working from home. This week I was going to get everything done, I had just enough time… Except… My son got sick.

Double ear infections.

He’s 3. He’s struggling in life anyway (you know, cause he’s 3) he’s excited about Christmas, his routine has been changed because of everything going on the past two weeks, he’s pumped up on sugar… And this morning, he lost it.

For a half hour he cried, sobbed, at the moment of this picture he was crying because he didn’t want to put on the pants HE picked out. He also has wild hair because I will not fight him to cut it. So as I witnessed this breakdown, I heard the words of Isaiah and those quoted about John the Baptist.

A prophet cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of The Lord, the mountains will be made low and the low places a plain, the path will be made straight.

In other words, through God, things will be made easier, better. I don’t know what that means necessarily or what that looks like. But I know this- when things are hard, when fits are thrown, when it seems like it will never be okay- a voice cries in the wilderness, prepare the way. Prepare the way. God is soothing, loving, and cradling us, but we must prepare for the coming of Christ, and the voice that does that, even my screaming child, is a prophet.

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Hope

Last week I went out to California, and got to hang out with these guys… Tripp Hudgins and Jeff Richards. They are amazing. Not only is our relationship and friendship revitalizing to my soul, gosh darn it, it is a whole lot of fun! Sometimes hope comes in the form of looking at your friends, playing some music, and knowing that everything’s going to be alright. You are the light of the world, Jesus proclaimed to us. These guys help that light to come out from under the bushel.

My photo of the day for Hope is a video. Enjoy.

 

Good News

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For two weeks my husband and I had been going back and forth about his work Christmas party. Are spouses invited? If they are, should I go? Can we even find a sitter? Can we afford to find a sitter?

So it was decided I would not go. But then this week happened, I was good, everyday was planned out. Our office was chaos, the week before Christmas, my office manager out for a (very well deserved) two week vacation. So we had 6 bulletins to print and announcements top proof, candles and fabric to dig out, music to coordinate, shall I go on?

And yes, it would have been fine, until Tuesday afternoon my sons teacher comes to my office and tells me he has a fever. 103. So off to the doctor, double ear infections, trade off with my husband, back to church for session, working from home Wednesday with emails flying back and forth…

Needless to say, it was a tough week and I ended up working on my day off. So by 4:30 as I am attempting to finish my sermon for Sunday (on a very fried brain) I decide I need a night out, even if it is to my husband’s office party. So I was lucky enough to find a sitter (thanks Emily!) and we went to the party and dinner, sometimes we just need a break.

I am privileged to have a call and a vocation where I share the good news of Christ with a congregation and the community. But sometimes good news comes in spending some well deserved time with my husband.

Steady

Hope

Steady. My life is chaos, i do not know what this means. For the past 18 months my spiritual director has been telling me to “be good to myself” as I struggle to find “balance”.

Okay, I don’t know how to do that.

I can take care of you (or someone who is not me) all day long, and I would bend over backwards to do it, but me… me not so much.

After I had my first child I went back to the OB for my 6 week checkup. Now when I was pregnant I was excellent about taking my prenatal vitamins but once she was born… eh, not so much. Well my doc laid into me. She explained that I HAD to take my multi-vitamin and my calcium. That my daughter was literally sucking it out of my bones.

“Your daughter will get what she needs from you, this is not about her, this is about you. You have to replenish.”

Well, let me tell you, that was the exact wrong thing to say, and I was just tired enough to not filter myself and I told her just that. “If you tell me it’s for the baby I’ll do it. If it’s for me, I won’t.”

So what does all this have to do with steady?

Well, there are times when my well is dry and when the well is dry the hope goes with it. We HAVE to replenish. So the day steady came up I was on a plane to California. My well was pretty dry. I opened my Cantata book and saw these words. “Freely, with tenderness”

That’s what I wanted. That’s how I was going to replenish, THAT’S what it means to be good to myself. Hold myself “freely, with tenderness”. In other words, in loving-kindness, in other words, I don’t have to put so many expectations and restraints on myself that I am literally sucked dry.

The world, my family, the people I serve will get what they need- I have to hold myself freely, with tenderness.  This is the way my life will find steadfast peace- freely, with tenderness.

Flood

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There is a piece of light in all of us…

Seen or unseen the light is there,

Ready to kindle, eager to respond,

Refusing to be rightly contained.

As soon as the tiniest space is allowed

It quickly emerges, floods outward,

Illuminating the darkest of places.

From “Little Pieces of Light” by Joyce Rupp, OSM

Time

Time. Time after time.

Today they are releasing the 911 tapes from the Newtown shooting last year. Just so you know, I will not be listening to them, I cannot. Just knowing they will be released makes me want to drive to my daughter’s elementary school and hold her tight. Also, I think it’s terrible timing, just days away from the year anniversary.

Time

But as the Advent Photo of the Day calendar told me today’s word was time, I went out to the graveyard at the church. A few weeks ago when my aunt was visiting we were looking at the gravestones, she notices these three graves, all children, all of the same family.

Meet the Parks children, or at least what we know of them from their gravestones (from left to right), sons and daughter of William & Charolilla Parks.

Clarence Everett- died August 18, 1866 1 year, 2 months

Maggie Owens- died July 16, 1875 4 years, 6 months, 13 days

Seymour Gowan- died July 5, 1875 2 years, 3 months, and 3 days

They lost 3 children, within 9 years, the last two 11 days apart. I do not know what tragedy took these babies away from their parents and loved ones, but their headstones begin our cemetery, there are many other children buried here, but not three from one family and so close together.

I know they are long gone from this world, but my heart breaks for their grief, my heart is in pain for their memory of what was and what was lost. They say time heals all wounds, I do not believe this to be true. However, the pain “lessens” because it gets integrated into a new way of being, one of the ways this happens is over time.

These marble stones will stand as long as possible in our cemetery, marking the lives that lived only a small time on earth. Time has worn these stones, but time has marked their journey also.

Peace

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Peace is today’s word for the Advent photo of the day.  I thought long and hard, as the obvious choice for me would be to sneak into get a picture of my children sleeping.  But instead I finished sorting through my email after 10 days away and poured myself a cup of tea.  No one is in the office Tuesday and it is quiet.  

I have a little Christmas music on and I exhaled.  I also put it in my favorite mug, it is my “tree of life” mug. Whenever I drink from it I am reminded that there is just as much beneath the surface of life as there is above. Peace comes from the roots.  A tree could be chaotic on the outside and yet remain rooted and firm on the inside.  A tree could also be blown over if the insides are not deeply rooted.

And so it goes with peace. Peace comes from within, it is not the absence of chaos, it is being firmly rooted in the midst of it.